'Discriminatory': Goa in Supreme Court on mining leases renewal cancellation
Goa not getting the benefit of second renewal in mining leases when other states have the same advantage will amount to discrimination, the coastal state has told the Supreme Court. The mining industry in the state came to a standstill in March 2018, after the top court quashed the second renewal of 88 iron ore mining leases.
“There are second renewals granted although they were not renewed for a number of years. As far as the state of Goa is concerned, the benefit of 2nd renewal, which is available and granted to the rest of the country, is denied. This would amount to discrimination and a judgment of the court cannot be interpreted to give such absurd and unequal treatment to different states under the same law,” said the Goa government seeking review of the Supreme Court order.
The state government has told the apex court that its mining leases are eligible for renewal till 2037. The mining leaseholders have also claimed that leases in Goa were eligible for a ‘second renewal’, an opportunity they claim they were not provided.
In a February 2018 order, the top court cancelled 88 active mining leases in Goa that were 'hurriedly' issued and reiterated that the leases had 'expired' in 2007 and if mining is to restart, fresh leases need to be issued. It dealt a blow to mining as the grant of fresh leases now needs to be done via auction, something that the state government and Goa's mining leaseholders are reluctant to agree to.
Mining leases in Goa granted by the erstwhile Portuguese regime were converted to leases under the MMDR Act via the Goa Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Conversion Leases) Act, 1987 with effect from 1961, the year Goa was made part of India.
The period from 1961 onwards was considered the grant of the lease whereas the period from 1987 was considered the ‘first renewal’ which was valid till 2007. Goa’s mining leaseholders applied for ‘second renewals’ in 2007 but the State government didn’t act on the applications instead allowing the leases to continue to operate on a ‘deemed extension’ basis which the Supreme Court in 2014 declared as illegal. The Supreme Court ruled that since the Goa government didn’t renew the leases in 2007 they were now ‘dead’ and were not eligible for belated renewals and instead fresh leases would have to be granted.
Parallely, the state government has also claimed that the law as amended in 2015 provides that all active leases granted before the commencement of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015 shall be deemed to have been granted for a period of fifty years. This, they say, would mean Goa’s mining leases which were converted to leases in 1987 should be “deemed to have been granted for a period of 50 years” which makes them valid till 2037.
The mining Industry has been one of the major sources of revenue generation for the state and also a source of employment generation, the Goa government said.
“More than 17% of the population of the state of Goa is directly or indirectly dependent on the mining industry... Direct revenue loss to the state is estimated to the extent of minimum ₹600 crore on an annual basis. The loss of income, employment and closure of other forms of peripheral economy which thrive on mining activity cannot be quantified at this stage, but can be expected to be annually in the range of Rs. 240 Crore,” the state government said.